Chickweed can best be described as a ground cover that grows in a thick clump or mat consisting of leaves, stems, tiny buds, and flowers, all of which can be eaten. Chickweed is an annual that thrives in the cool, wet months, and can germinate throughout the year. It will generally appear in sunny areas of bare, moist, rich, soil. In summer, it’s mostly found in partly shaded places. It’s name comes from the fact that it is highly desirable by chickens that are often seen dining on this free-range food staple.
Chickweed is simple to identify with opposite pairs of small, teardrop shaped leaves with tiny white star-shaped flowers. The stem has a delicate almost hollow-like structure with a single line of hairs that run up one side. The flowers close at night and open in the morning and seem to respond to changes in air pressure as they stay closed during a low pressure system.
In common with most edible weeds, it is both edible and medicinal. It is very nutritious containing a high level of vitamin C as well as a variety of other vitamins and minerals. It can be eaten raw in the field or added to salads or cooked as a pot herb, tasting somewhat like spinach but without the bitterness associated with many other edible weeds. It has been used to treat skin ailments, obesity, and as a diuretic. Be moderate in consumption as too much can cause adverse effects like diarrhea.
As usual, plants should be collected from pollution-free areas – not by roadsides or areas sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. It wouldn’t hurt to stay clear of your pet’s trail as well!